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May 18, 2006

Study findings should help tailor chemotherapy for breast cancer patients

Topics: Medical Science News

Findings of a new Canadian study of younger women with breast cancer suggest better tailoring of chemotherapy regimens should be on the horizon, which will allow for some women to avoid 'more "difficult-to-endure" and "side-effect-ridden" 'therapies:

"I think the broad message is that increasingly, by careful pathology, we're able to tailor the treatment more for individual patients," lead author Dr. Kathleen Pritchard of Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre said Wednesday in an interview.

"And that we're able to pick out patients who are likely to do well with more chemotherapy, more hormone therapy, something in-between or different types of chemotherapy."

The study, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that premenopausal women whose cancers overproduced a protein called HER2 (sometimes called HER2/neu) responded better to an aggressive type of chemotherapy containing agents from the anthracycline class of drugs.

But in women whose cancers were HER2-negative, this more toxic and more expensive form of chemotherapy did not produce better results than alternative regimens, Pritchard and her co-authors from the National Cancer Institute of Canada clinical trials group reported.

Increasingly, oncologists are testing women with breast cancer to check their HER2 status, largely because it helps doctors determine whether a patient ought to be put on a regimen of the drug Herceptin, which reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence after they have completed their cancer treatment.

"These are really important findings. We're moving away from the era when it was one treatment that was given to all women with breast cancer and we're really trying to tailor treatment," said Dr. Pamela Goodwin, a researcher and head of the breast cancer treatment program at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.

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Look to see more in the way of targeted therapies and tailored treatment in other types of cancer.

Posted by Richard at May 18, 2006 12:46 PM

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